During World War II, IBM punch cards and electric accounting machines kept track of U.S. military equipment and supplies around the world. After punch cards came barcodes, which revolutionized military asset tracking. Barcodes are still in use today, and the latest technology, radio frequency identification (RFID), is often used along with barcodes to record, track and manage military equipment and supplies. The U.S. military is increasingly relying on RFID technology to ensure critical equipment and supplies are in the right place at the right time, as well as to help ensure the security of valuable or sensitive materials and equipment. In addition, RFID tags and readers are also used to secure military supplies en route.
Military RFID Applications
Currently, the military distribution system has over 3 million active RFID tags in circulation. In Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Pakistan, there are over 3,100 tag-reader devices. The Navy, Air Force and Marines have invested in passive RFID technology with promising results.
- The Navy: RFID readers are at warehouse doors and other receiving points in Hawaii naval installations. The Navy has not only made each RFID tag transaction information visible to its customers, but they have implemented interfaces between RFID technology and naval distribution systems. The successful progress of these improvements has led to analysis regarding whether RFID on vessels for onboard supply processes can be safely used within the Navy’s hazards of electromagnetic radiation to ordnance (HERO). If so, detailed asset tracking and visibility will be possible for shipboard supply.
- The Air Force: Passive RFID tags are used for managing materials related to nuclear weapons. Each item requires two-person identification and documentation, and passive RFID is helping with these intensive item management inventory requirements. For example, inventory of an entire warehouse can now be completed in minutes with the use of handheld terminals. Items are tracked when they are moved from one area to another, one building to another, or one installation to another. Automatic alerts provide notifications when items do not arrive by their expected delivery time.
- The Marine Corps: Currently, distribution managers are working to integrate passive RFID with their information systems. Not only will this bring an end to several processes completed by hand, but it could also lead to a significant reduction in human error. Each Marine Corps’ main base already has passive RFID systems that document on-base deliveries.
These are just a few examples of the military applications for RFID. Many more exist, such as the Army using passive RFID to track parachute processing from warehousing, inventory, packing, shipping, jumping and recovery. Implemented in the early 2000s, this has helped eliminate manual methods that are error-prone, labor-intensive and vulnerable to malicious tampering.
The Benefits of Military RFID Applications
The list of benefits for the incorporation of RFID tags is impressive, both for the Department of Defense and its suppliers. For the DoD, the benefits include:
- Improved asset tracking
- Replacement of manual procedures
- Improved labor productivity
- Improved acceptance and receipt
- Automated acceptance and receipt
For the DoD’s suppliers, the benefits include:
- Improved planning
- Increased ability to ensure supplies and equipment are stocked on DoD shelves
- Improved efficiency in the recall of defective items
- Faster receipt of payments
- Automated data capture results in efficient material recording, so the location of assets is available at all times.
Asset Tracking with ToolHound
While the military and DoD contractors continue to adopt RFID for asset tracking, they’re far from the only large organizations that can benefit from RFID technology. Companies in construction, oil, gas, mining and other industries can also reap the rewards of ToolHound’s RFID technology. Using a comprehensive database, coupled with a barcode or RFID-based system, ToolHound tracks the issue and return of assets, as well as the transfer of assets among various job sites.
ToolHound’s RFID technology delivers a prompt return on investment and delivers overall peace of mind. Whether you need comprehensive asset tracking for a military application or for a private company, contact ToolHound now to see how our world-class asset tracking system can benefit you.